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42 Tasting Notes

Drinking this tea now, all in my mind is, oh my goodness, anything is possible in this world! Last year, I tried Zealong, a Taiwan style oolong produced in New Zealand (http://gingkobay.blogspot.com/2011/08/taiwan-style-oolong-1-zealong-aromatic.html). My conclusion on Zealong is, if anybody could tell this tea from a high quality high mountain oolong made in Taiwan, that person wouldn’t be me :-p Now I am sipping this Taiwan style oolong made in 2000m mountains of Yunnan, and I am thinking of it again – who could tell this is not from Taiwan? I couldn’t.

Greener style oolong is not my favorite. But a great Taiwan high mountain oolong always makes my heart sing. This tea too, makes my heart sing. It makes me so happy about this sunny afternoon. It makes me so happy about my new egg white little shibo set made by Petr Novak, who has always been great and now is making even smaller teapots!

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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I have been excited for two days… Guess what?! I’ve restored contact with an old buddy through a networking website! The last time we saw each other was summer 2001. I was terribly guilty for not maintaining the contact. And how grateful I am that after all we haven’t lost each other! Ten years! How many times do we lose contact with good people in our lives? For me, I guess that’s many times. We ride the flowing water of time without even realizing a lot of good friends are out of the sight… How may times do we get back into contact with an old friend whom we haven’t heard from in the past 10 years? I guess that doesn’t happen a lot! But there are people in my life who I know will stay in my life, even if I don’t see them for 10 years.

To honor the friendship, I am having a 2001 CNNP Bulang today, a tea of 10 years, just like the 10 years in which we never heard from each other but never forgot about each other.

Tea from Bulang is excellent for aging and for making shu puerh, because of its rich flavor profile. Shu is not my favorite tea category. But today I feel I appreciate it more than ever. It doesn’t have the charming floral or fruity aroma. Instead, it has the “aroma of age”, which, to me, often means the taste of an old wooden box (let me add “clean”, because it’s dry-aged, ha ha…). Then it gives strikingly sweet aftertaste. In Chinese tea aesthetics, aftertaste is often valued a lot more than the taste a tea gives at the first moment. I feel probably the older I get, the more I appreciate this aesthetic value. In our lives, there are people who don’t give you excitment every day, but with time being, you know those are the people who give you lingering aftertastes.

Puerh is not my favorite tea category. But I always think it’s one of the most unique types of tea. On a day like this, when I think of my buddy, think of my own life 10 years ago, think of how much has been changed by time and how much has not… on a day like this, a pot of aged puerh is exactly what I desire!

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
teawing

I think I could be convinced to give puerh another chance under these conditions!

Spencer

That sounds like an absolutely amazing tea. Awesome that you got to try it.

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My understanding of Shou Mei is very limited. For a long time, I saw it as one of the least expensive tea in white tea genre, and a restaurant tea. A few months ago, I tried a 2005 white peony that was really interesting. This year, when my supplier sent me the new harvest Bai Hao Silver Needle, he said, “Now it’s time to taste last year’s silver needle again – you may find it even better than when it was new.” I will do it soon. But all these made me want to try some old Shou Mei.

So I got this 2009 Shou Mei. In the past, I always brewed Shou Mei the same way as I do with other white tea – small amount of tea, long steep. This time, I decided to use a “hybrid” method between the old brewing and gongfu brewing. I used leaves that filled about 1/5 -1/4 of the gaiwan, and brewed it for 1 minute for each of the first 3 infusions.

My overall impression is, this is the best Shou Mei I’ve ever had. The tea is floral, smooth, sweet, with a little hint of spiciness. Overall I feel it’s not picky at all. Shorter infusion or longer infusion will change the intensity of the flavor and number of infusions the tea can yield, but will not cause problems – as long as very hot water is used and the tea is not under-steeped. My tea started to get weaker in the 4th infusion, but still went a long way after that. I don’t know what will happen if higher leaf/water ratio is used. But I guess if the leaves fill half of the gaiwan, and infusion is controlled to be within 20-30 seconds, the tea will be great and will yield more infusions.

The tea tastes somewhat like Bai Hao Oolong (Oriental Beauty). People who love Oriental Beauty may consider letting their Shou Mei stay around for a couple of years. After all, Shou Mei is so much cheaper than Oriental Beauty!

So, if you have some old silver needle or white peony left in a corner of your tea cabinet (don’t we all have accidentally forgotten teas!), take it out, taste it and let us know what you think of it!

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec

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I am very excited about this tea. You don’t bump into a 1996 Xia Guan tuo every year! Besides, this is a product made for Taiwan market, which usually means the leaf materials are more strictly selected. This specific one is said to be made with leaves from 300 year old arbor trees. I don’t have a way to confirm this information. But I can tell the leaves are of very high quality, a quality that’s almost never seen from any Xia Guan product today. Above all, what makes me most excited about this tea is, it’s a sheng that has stayed in purely dry storage in Yunnan in all these years. 16 year old sheng from purely dry storage is extremely rare, because 16 years ago, most people who stored puerh were in Taiwan or Hong Kong, and the storage conditions were much more humid (even without artificial humidification, which was very often used) than Kunming, Yunnan. The dry storage rend started merely 10-15 years ago.

So, you can imagine I was really excited to put my hands on this tea :D

The leaves are beautiful. On my way prying the tea, I still dug out a cotton thread… so far, no stones or straws yet…

The liquor is bright red/orange. The texture of the liquor is smooth and soupy. The front taste is somewhat like shu puerh, minus all post-fermentation taste of shu. What’s most wonderful is its aftertaste, which is like a weak resonance of a typical sheng, bright aromatic, even a little floral, and very sweet. This lingering aftertaste made me elongate the interval between sips and cups, and taste the tea very, very slowly. In between the front taste and aftertaste, I think I’ve tasted something milky and buttery. It’s usually not a feature I find in puerh, either sheng or shu. So possibly it’s just my illusion. But also possibly that’s what the tea mean to be, since I’ve tasted milky flavor from Hei Cha products, which went through post-fermentation as puerh does.

I’ve seen a lot of discussions on dry storage, Hong Kong storage and wet storage. But currently the missing link is dry-stored old sheng – there aren’t many of them. Most Chinese tea drinkers I know don’t like the taste of Hong Kong storage (but in Hong Kong and Guangdong there must be a lot of people loving it). But they don’t have much dry-stored old sheng in hands either. There are a lot of debates about dry storage and Hong Kong storage, because people have to hesitate and struggle between the two options. (Probably also because many people have an urge to feel their rightness. Otherwise why can’t we say all options are good as long as they work for some people.) I believe in future 5-10 years, there will be more dry-stored old sheng available in the market. Once the direct comparison is available to most people, there is no need to debate. You can just choose what you like and store your tea accordingly. Or that’s what I wish. In puerh, people will always find endless subjects to debate on :-p

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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What’s the best tea? I think it’s a question impossible to answer. But if to answer it in a rather abstract way, I would say, the best tea is never from the market, but from a friend. This tea is from Rich, the blogger of Sharing My Cup of Tea (http://www.myteastories.com/), a connoisseur of tea and especially aged oolong. I have to admit that I am never very enthusiastic about aged oolong, and at one point, I even felt reluctant to talk about aged oolong – somehow, there are often more too many myths and complications. But in my conversations with Rich, I enjoyed discussing with him about aged oolong and learned a lot from him. Besides him being very knowledgeable, what I like most about our discussions is, he seriously studies on the tea and gives (or searches for) reasonable explanations. As a science major, I always like to locate reasons, causes, observations, inferences, causal relations… I believe tea shouldn’t be mysterious. It’s ok not to have a final answer, but it’s not cool to mysterize it.

I feel very privileged to have experienced this tea, first because it’s very rare, and secondly because this is a great opportunity to witness what a Dong Ding was like in early 80s. The current fisted shape of Dong Ding became popular only in 1990s but it entirely replaced the traditional curled shape of Dong Ding. The dry leaves of this 80s Dong Ding are in slightly curled shape, but not ball shape. It has medium oxidation, and medium to heavy roasting. After all these years, the roast taste has become mild and smooth, but the tea has long lasting power. It has a deep aroma and dark honey taste that last about 8-9 infusions. Then I had more infusions the second day. It was hard to say good bye to such a precious tea and I wanted to take out every bit of its taste :D

At the end, what amazed me were the beautiful, spent leaves. I’ve noticed that a common feature of great oolong teas is their leaves look very much alive to the last infusion. It might be a dark roast tea, or a tea aged for many years, like this one. But once fully infused and fully expanded, the leaves look so tender and resilient. I feel very grateful to all the good people who made this tea, who kept it throughout years and who shared it with me!

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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You can’t imagine how excited I was when finding this Green Chocolate. Finally there is a snack/candy/dessert with high quality, REAL tea as a dominant ingredient. The other dominant ingredient is another one of my favorite – chocolate, with REAL cocoa butter! What’s more, it’s 100% organic. How much greener can it be :D From my first taste of this chocolate to the time I stocked it up for my store, it took less than a week. No matter how their sales record would be, I know I could eat them all even by myself – but of course I am doing my best to battle against obsessive-eating :-p

I feel it will be adored by people who love matcha and white chocolate. The green tea powder used for this chocolate is not at matcha grade, but has a flavor very close to matcha. There are some tiny, tiny bits of green tea leaves too. They are so tiny that they won’t stay between your teeth. But they contribute to the lingering taste of green tea which lasts in the mouth for quite a while.

The Green Chocolate is not similar to the bittersweet dark chocolate type. So dark chocolate lovers may feel it’s not “chocolaty” enough. But if one loves both chocolate and green tea, she may find Green Chocolate a small paradise.

Also for folks who love green tea ice-cream, very likely they will find greater passion in the Green Chocolate. My favorite green tea ice-cream is one made in California and often found in Asian groceries (I can’t recall the brand name but always recognize its box). When I can’t find it, I would go for Trader Joe’s green tea ice-cream. I prefer the other two to the Haagen-Dasz green tea ice-cream, but still like the latter one. There is also a very nice green tea ice-cream made by a new, small ice-cream company in Berkshire County of Massachusetts. But their distribution region so far is still quite small and it’s hard to get it. I’ve also had some green tea ice-cream with large bits of green tea leaves, which I don’t prefer. But usually the taste is quite good too, and just the large bits of tea leaves can be annoying. There is a Baskin-Robinns in Toronto that used to have this kind of green tea ice-cream every Thursday. Inspite of the leaf bits, the ice-cream was quite decent. And I think it’s a nice gesture for them to have a green tea ice-cream day every week. If you are not sure whether you will like Green Chocolate, try some green tea ice-cream first. If you like green tea ice-cream, chances are Green Chocolate will be an upgraded treat for you, less sweetened and with traditionally half-shaded-grown green tea in its most original “tea conditions”.

Typical Japanese green tea has more caffeine than most other teas. For people who are sensitive to caffeine, Green Kiss shouldn’t be taken after 8pm (I tried it and got too caffeinated to sleep till after mid-night). Normally you wouldn’t expect a chocolate to have this much caffeine. But sometimes when I have to get up and go out in early morning, when there is snow storm outside, there is car to dig out of snow and there is a full day of work ahead (all of these happened too much recently!), a small piece of Green Kiss can make me cry out of joy and feel suddenly more energetic.

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I taste a lot of samples day in and day out. Most of them I taste alone. I don’t like tasting a tea alone without other drinkers to discuss on it with. It’s nice to drink a tea, write a tasting note, and read other people’s tasting notes on the same tea.

Earlier today I was thinking which tea to drink. Then I saw a nice and interesting tasting not on this Dou Ji sheng puerh.
http://half-dipper.blogspot.com/2011/01/2009-douji-xiangdou.html
Since I have a sample of this tea too, I immediately took it :D

I think I am ok with this tea but will not buy it unless I get another sample to taste again later. It is bitter to some degree, but then has quite prominent sweet aftertaste. The aroma after each sip seems very nice to me. But overall I feel this tea is quite harsh to stomach (I have a relatively weaker stomach).

I am somewhat puzzled by the tea liquor. It does have some smooth, soupy texture. But the tea liquor in my cup is not clear at all, even a little swampy. I don’t know if it’s because I got too many crushed leaves in the sample.

This tea is indeed bitter. I am borderline ok with this bitterness, but I am more tolerant to bitterness than many people. I suspect this bitterness will be too much to enjoy for many people. But considering leaf materials of this tea are from Meng Hai and it’s only 3-year-old, being bitter is not that strange.

This tea is an award-winning product. So far my impression is, its aftertaste is sweet, aromatic, complex and unique. But it’s not my favorite type. This tea serves as a confirmation that I don’t like Meng Hai tea that much, at least not Meng Hai tea that’s still young and bitter. If this tea is aged for several years, and if the bitterness turns into some honey aroma, I imagine the tea can be very nice. This kind of thing happens to puerh sometimes. But I don’t have a clue if it will happen to this tea.

I had a 7g sample, and used all of it in a 130ml teapot. I wish I had used the 150ml one with half-ball shape strainer. This is a strong tea, and when some crushed leaves slowing down the pouring, the tea sometimes got too strong.

The leaves look all very nice, just a lot of them are crushed. It seems that they should be nice whole leaves in the original tea brick and were just crushed in sampling and transportation. If I had had a 10g sample, I would have removed all the smaller bits and brew the relatively intact leaves only. Sometimes it makes a big difference.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
the_skua

I recently ordered a bunch of Douji cakes and bricks from China Cha Dao and this was one of the few ones that I did NOT order. Based on what you and Hobbes have said about it, I don’t think I’m missing much. Although, the intensity of the bitterness makes me think there’s aging potential. Hopefully the other “dou” will be better.

Gingko (manager of Life in Teacup)

I have the impression that most sheng puerh of Douji are quite drinkable when young. This one is a little intense and doesn’t taste as pure as some other products. Oddly this one is the one that won an award, and I did see quite a few positive feedbacks on Chinese tea sites. Maybe its thick flavor is most appealing to some people. And what you said, aging potential, is very possible too. I don’t dislike this tea. I thought of buying 1 brick for observation :-D but then there are many other teas that I want to buy…

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It may sound cheap or cheesy to say so… but this tea gave me a feeling of falling in love! So far I’ve only tasted one sample of this tea and have one more for later. But with just one tasting session, I am totally mesmerized!

I’ve been tasting a few dozens of tea samples in the past two weeks, and at certain point I was worried that I was losing my sense and couldn’t recognize what I liked the most. But this tea stood out easily. It’s a very unique tea made from old tree tea leaves from various regions blended. Usually blended puerh is made from plantation tea leaves, and old tree tea leaves are used to make single-estate teas.

Made by a small manufacturer of rising fame, this tea is very elegant and clean (no crumbs left at the bottom of the cup). In my mind, I always saw puerh as a “rougher” tea compared with green tea or oolong. But this one is so carefully made. The elegant outlook, together with its bright, long lasting aromatic taste, makes me feel this tea, in some sense, somewhat feels like a dan cong. I still don’t know why I feel this way!

I think I am completely in love with this tea and hence with the manufacturer too. I have only one sample left, but I think I will get a lot of it soon and will keep watching on any new products from this manufacturer. If I have to give up all the other puerh in the world and only have this tea as my puerh, it would be fine and I wouldn’t feel sad. That’s how much I love this tea :D

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
cultureflip

You make me want to try it now. It’s so young! No bitterness?

Ross Duff

mmmmmmmmm…. sounds real good

Gingko (manager of Life in Teacup)

When I get more of this tea, I will have some samples to share with you guys :-D But I do need to have one more tasting to make sure this is not just impulsive love :-p
Cultureflip, this tea is definitely one of the least bitter type. I didn’t feel bitterness at all, but I am more tolerant to bitterness than most people. So I think when I get more of this tea, it will be nice to share with people and see what others think.
I don’t know where the leaf materials of this tea are from. There are a few regions where leaves, especially those from old trees (in contrast to plantation tea bushes), are much less bitter or not bitter at all.
But then, some less bitter teas may lack the “weight on the tongue” or depth of flavor as found in some more bitter teas. So it also depends on people’s individual tastes.
And yeah this tea is very young. I am quite cautious on drinking young teas. Generally I believe it’s healthier NOT to drink very young tea every day or too often. Then there is the question how this tea will change in future years, about which I don’t have much idea yet.

cultureflip

Ooh yeah, I know why you love this so much now. It’s really different! Rarely does young sheng taste “delicious” but this one does! Very fruity but still potent in it’s youth. Seriously, thanks for sharing this one. How much does a cake go for?

cultureflip

And it does carry some characteristics of a dan cong.

Gingko (manager of Life in Teacup)

Cultureflip, thanks for sharing your thoughts about it and glad to know you like it! I haven’t stocked up large amount of it yet and don’t know what’s the best price I can get if buying a lot. But I may not get a large amount for the store since it’s not a well-known brand in US and is quite expensive (currently sold for $30 in China, and the cake is only 250g, not 357g). Let me know if you would like me to get one for you. But I am also examining a few other products and hope to find some of similar quality and better price.

cultureflip

it is good. i dont really drink a lot of younger sheng but this one stands out. $30 isnt so bad for a smallish cake. let me know what you find though. maybe one of these days when im feeling rich ill pick one up.

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I put it under puerh category, but there are people who don’t believe it should be called a puerh.

This tea looks like a very scary tea to me! Whether it looks scary to you may depend on which photo I show to you :-p The one I uploaded to the database is a scary one, especially if looked enlarged. I will upload more photos on my blog later.

I’ve had a refined version of this tea earlier. The refined version has lots of "golden flowers (yellow fungal growth, which is believed to be beneficial to health, unlike the yellow fungi found in rotten nuts, which is a carcinogen). The fungal look is not scary to me but rather attractive.

This tea brick looks scary to me because it has the most choppy, dry, old and stemmy leaves I’ve ever seen from any tea or tea bricks. But as far as I know, this tea is consumed by many people in northwestern China, and this brand is one of the most famous. So however scary it may look, I know it’s supposed to be drinkable.

I brewed about 3 grams of this tea in a 130ml teapot, first for about 2 minutes, with some left over hot water (probably 190F). The liquor is of yellowish color. The taste is by far not as scary as the appearance of tea leaves. It tastes sweet and woody. Then I brewed it with newly boiled water for a long time (probably 10 minutes) and got a darker, red tea liquor that looked closer to what the tea color is “supposed” to be (as northwestern people who drink this tea on daily basis would boil this tea in water for many minutes and then mix it with milk or butter). The tea tasted stronger this way, but not as strong as many other puerh or non-puerh teas. And it didn’t give more than a few infusions this way.

The dark, red tea liquor looked even to some degree quite pretty and bright. The taste is earthy type of woody. I think some people would like it (if they are not freaked out by the leaves to begin with). People who don’t like earthy flavor may not like it.

When brewed in a pot or cup, this tea has many stems floating on the surface of tea water. In fact, I estimate this tea has about 20% stems in it!

But still, if skipping the scenes and offered only the tea liquor, I think probably most people would even like it, or at least don’t dislike it. It’s not a bad tea. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been the daily tea of many people in northwestern China.

On the other hand, I do like the refined version of this tea much much better, and somewhat believe maybe more traditional drinkers of this tea would prefer the refined version too. In the refined version, there are mainly tea leaves and almost no stems, and tea leaves are of higher grade (not as old, dry or choppy).

But overall, I have very limited experience with this tea and what I’ve had may not be a best representative. One thing missing from the brick I have is the “golden flower” – the yellow fungus that has been traditional seen as a major criterion to evaluation quality of a Fu Zhuan. Without “golden flower”, this tea tastes ok. But maybe it could taste better with some fungal growth :-0

I’ve sent this tea to my Tibetan friend for a few times. But this is the first time I’ve ever opened the wrap myself. I felt it funny that I was brewing this nomad’s tea in a tiny yixing teapot. So I ended my tea session with this tea in a bigger glass with some milk added. This tea is pretty good with milk!

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more

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I am not a big fan of Shu, but oddly sometimes this tea serves me so well, such as on a cold winter night!

This tea has nice bright dark red tea liquor. The taste is smooth with a soupy texture, feels very clean, no offensive over-fermentation taste at all. It’s after taste is not only sweet, but also somewhat more complicated (in a nice way) than most shu I’ve tried. No wonder it’s seen by a lot of people as a classic product of shu.

If I have to critique on it, I would say its taste is on the weaker side. But very possibly many flavors of shu that’s favored by a lot of other people just escape my radar. The tea is very soothing, with great mouth feel and excellent warming effect. It really made every skin pore of mine feel comfortable!

A friend of mine commented that he feels this tea doesn’t taste much different from its 2008 version, which seems to me may not be a bad thing at all.

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Bio

Oolong is my love. Other teas are my great interests too.
As a tea drinker, I am in everlasting curiosity for tasting new tea varieties and learning about tea culture.
As a tea seller, I believe in small business operations in tea manufacturing and trading. My goal is to provide more tea varietals, especially rare ones, with diverse flavor profiles directly from their producing regions.

Location

Masschusetts

Website

http://www.lifeinteacup.com

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